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KJV Defended



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine


Second Pages to Chapters

1  2  4  6  8







 The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills




4. The King James Version

Not only modernists but also many conservatives are now saying that the King James Version ought to be abandoned because it is not contemporary. The Apostles, they insist, used contemporary language in their preaching and writing, and we too must have a Bible in the language of today. But more and more it is being recognized that the language of the New Testament was biblical rather than contemporary. It was the Greek of the Septuagint, which in its turn was modeled after the Old Testament Hebrew. Any biblical translator, therefore, who is truly trying to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and to produce a version which God will bless, must take care to use language which is above the level of daily speech, language which is not only intelligible but also biblical and venerable. Hence in language as well as text the King James Version is still by far superior to any other English translation of the Bible.

(a) The Forerunners of the King James Version

Previous to the Reformation a number of translations were made of the Latin Vulgate into Anglo-Saxon and early English. One of the first of these translators was Caedmon (d.680), an inmate of the monastery of Whitby in northern England, who retold in alliterative verse the biblical narratives which had been related to him by the monks. Bede (672-735), the most renowned scholar of that period, not only wrote many commentaries on various books of the Bible, but also translated the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon. King Alfred (848-901) did the same for several other portions of Scripture, notably the Ten Commandments and the Psalms. And eclipsing all these earlier translations in importance was that made by John Wyclif (d.1384) of the entire Latin Bible into the English of his day, the New Testament appearing in 1380 and the Old in 1382. Not long after Wyclif’s death a second edition of his English Bible, more satisfactory in language and style than the first, was prepared by his close associate, John Purvey.

The first printed English version of the Bible was that of William Tyndale, one of England's first Protestant martyrs. Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire in 1484 and studied both at Oxford and Cambridge. About 1520 he became attached to the doctrines of the Reformation and conceived the idea of translating the Scriptures into English. Unable to do so in England, he set out for the Continent in the spring of 1524 and seems to have visited Hamburg and Wittenberg. In that same year (probably at Wittenberg) he translated the New Testament from Greek into English for dissemination in his native land. It is estimated that 18,000 copies of this version were printed on the Continent of Europe between 1525 and 1528 and shipped secretly to England. After this Tyndale continued to live on the Continent as a fugitive, constantly evading the efforts of the English authorities to have him tracked down and arrested. But in spite of this ever-present danger his literary activity was remarkable.


In 1530-31 he published portions of the Old Testament which he had translated from the Hebrew and in 1534 a revision both of this translation and also of his New Testament. In this same year he left his place of concealment and settled in Antwerp, evidently under the impression that the progress of the Reformation in England had made this move a safe one. In so thinking, however, he was mistaken. Betrayed by a friend, he was imprisoned in 1535 and executed the following year. According to Foxe, his dying prayer was this: "Lord, open the King of England's eyes." But his life's work had been completed. He had laid securely the foundations of the English Bible. A comparison of Tyndale's Version with the King James Version is said to indicate that from five sixths to nine tenths of the latter is derived from the martyred translator's work.

After the initial impulse had been given by Tyndale, a number of other English translations of the Bible appeared in rapid succession. The first of these was published in 1535 by Myles Coverdale, who translated not from the Hebrew and Greek but from the Latin Vulgate and from contemporary Latin and German versions, relying heavily all the while on Tyndale's version. In 1537 John Rogers, a close friend of Tyndale, published an edition of the Bible bearing on its title page the name "Thomas Matthew", probably a pseudonym for Rogers himself. This "Matthew Bible" contained Tyndale's version of the Old and New Testaments and Coverdale's version of those parts of the Old Testament which had not been translated by Tyndale. Then in 1539, under the auspices of Thomas Cromwell, the king's chamberlain, Coverdale published a revision of the Matthew Bible, which because of its large size was called the Great Bible.


This Cromwell established as the official Bible of the English Church and deposited it in ecclesiastical edifices throughout the kingdom. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth two revisions were made of the Great Bible. The first was prepared by English Protestants in exile at Geneva and published there in 1560. The second was the Bishops' Bible, published in 1568 by the English prelates under the direction of Archbishop Parker. And finally, the Roman Catholic remnant in England were provided by their leaders with a translation of the Latin Vulgate into English, the New Testament being published in 1582 and the Old in 1609-10. This is known as the Douai Version, since it was prepared at Douai in Flanders, an important center of English Catholicism during the Elizabethan age. (39)

(b) How the King lames Version Was Made—The Six Companies

Work on the King James Version began in 1604. In that year a group of Puritans under the leadership of Dr. John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, suggested to King James I that a new translation of the Bible be undertaken. This suggestion appealed to James, who was himself a student of theology and of the Scriptures, and he immediately began to make the necessary arrangements for carrying it out. Within six months the general plan of procedure had been drawn up and a complete list made of the scholars who were to do the work. Originally 54 scholars were on the list, but deaths and withdrawals reduced it finally to 47. These were divided into six companies which checked each other's work. Then the final result was reviewed by a select committee of six and prepared for the press. And because of all this careful planning the whole project was completed in less than seven years.


In 1611 the new version issued from the press of Robert Barker in a large folio volume bearing on its title page the following inscription: "The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New: Newly Translated out of the Original tongues; & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised by his Majesties special Commandment. Appointed to be read in Churches." The original tongues referred to in the title were the current printed Hebrew Bibles for the Old Testament and Beza's printed Greek Testament for the New. The "former translations" mentioned there include not only the five previous English versions mentioned above hut also the Douai Version, the Latin versions of Tremellius and Beza, and several Spanish, French, and Italian versions. The King James Version, however, is mainly a revision of the Bishops' Bible, which in turn was a slightly revised edition of Tyndale's Bible. Thus the influence of Tyndale's translation upon the King James Version was very strong indeed. (40)

(c) The King James Version Translators Providentially Guided—Preface to the Reader

The translators of the King James Version evidently felt themselves to have been providentially guided in their work. This belief plainly appears in the 'Preface of the Translators', written by Dr. Miles Smith, one of the leaders of this illustrious band of scholars. Concerning his co laborers he speaks as follows: "Truly, good Christian Reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one; but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.


To that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other men's eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise . . . And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their own knowledge, or of their sharpness of wit, or deepness of judgment, as it were an arm of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of David, opening, and no man shutting; they prayed to the Lord, the Father of our Lord, to the effect that St. Augustine did, O let thy Scriptures be my pure delight; let me not be deceived in them, neither let me deceive by them. In this confidence and with this devotion, did they assemble together; not too many, lest one should trouble another; and yet many, lest many things haply might escape them.'' (41)

God in His providence has abundantly justified this confidence of the King James translators. The course of history has made English a worldwide language which is now the native tongue of at least 300 million people and the second language of many millions more. For this reason the King James Version is known the world over and is more widely read than any other translation of the holy Scriptures. Not only so, but the King James Version has been used by many missionaries as a basis and guide for their own translation work and in this way has extended its influence even to converts who know no English. For more than 350 years therefore the reverent diction of the King James Version has been used by the Holy Spirit to bring the Word of life to millions upon millions of perishing souls. Surely this is a God-guided translation on which God working providentially, has placed the stamp of His approval.

(d) How the Translators Were Providentially Guided —The Marginal Notes

The marginal notes which the translators attached to the King James Version indicate how God guided their labors providentially. According to Scrivener (1884), there are 8,422 marginal notes in the 1611 edition of the King James Version, including the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament, Scrivener goes on to say, 4,111 of the marginal notes give the more literal meaning of the original Hebrew or Aramaic, 2,156 give alternative translations, and 67 give variant readings. In the New Testament 112 of the marginal notes give literal rendering of the Greek, 582 give alternative translations, and 37 give variant readings. These marginal notes show us that the translators were guided providentially through their thought processes, through weighing every possibility and choosing that which seemed to them best. (42)

The 1611 edition of the King James Version also included 9,000 "cross references" to parallel passages. These are still very useful, especially for comparing the four Gospels with each other. These "cross references" show that from the very start the King James Version was intended not merely as a pulpit Bible to be read in church, but also as a study Bible to guide the private meditations of God's people. (43)

As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God's holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian readers: "Many other things we might give thee warning of, gentle Reader, if we had not exceeded the measure of a preface already. It remaineth that we commend thee to God, and to the Spirit of His grace, which is able to build further than we can ask or think. He removeth the scales from our eyes, the veil from our hearts, opening our wits that we may understand His Word, enlarging our hearts, yea, correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea, that we may love it to the end. Ye are brought unto fountains of living water which ye digged not; do not cast earth into them, neither prefer broken pits before them. Others have laboured, and you may enter into their labours. O receive not so great things in vain: O despise not so great salvation." (44)

(e) Revisions of the King James Version— Obsolete Words Eliminated

Two editions of the King James Version were published in 1611. The first is distinguished from the second by a unique misprint, namely Judas instead of Jesus in Matt. 26:36. The second edition corrected this mistake and also in other respects was more carefully done. Other editions followed in 1612,1613, 1616, 1617, and frequently thereafter. In 1629 and 1638 the text was subjected to two minor revisions. In the 18th century the spelling and punctuation of the King James Version were modernized, and many obsolete words were changed to their modern equivalents.


The two scholars responsible for these alterations were Dr. Thomas Paris (1762), of Cambridge, and Dr. Benjamin Blayney (1769), of Oxford, and it is to their efforts that the generally current form of the King James Version is due. In the 19th century the most important edition of the King James Version was the Cambridge Paragraph Bible (1873), with F. H. A. Scrivener as its editor. Here meticulous attention was given to details, such as, marginal notes, use of Italic type, punctuation, orthography, grammar, and references to parallel passages. In 1884 also Scrivener published his Authorized Edition of the English Bible. a definitive history of the King James Version in which all these features and many more are carefully discussed. (45) Since that time, however, comparatively little research has been done on the history of the King James Version, due probably to loss of interest in the subject.

(f) Obsolete Words in the King James Version —How to Deal with Them

But are there still obsolete words in the King James Version or words that have changed their meaning? Such words do indeed occur, but their number is relatively small. The following are some of these archaic renderings with their modern equivalents:

by and by, Mark 6:25………………………………………………… .at once


charger, Mark 6:25……………………………………………………..platter

charity, 1 Cor.13:1………………………………………………………..love

chief estates, Mark 6:21 ……………………………………………chief men

coasts, Matt. 2:16 ……………………………………………………..borders

conversation, Gal. 1:13……………………………………………….conduct

devotions, Acts 17:23 ……………………………………..objects of worship

do you to wit, 2 Cor. 8:1 …………………………………make known to you

fetched a compass, Acts 28:13 ………………………………………...circled

leasing, Psalm 4:2, 5:6…………………………………………………...lying

let, 2 Thess. 2:7 ……………………………………………….……….restrain

lively, l Peter 2:5 ……………………………………………..………….living

meat, Matt. 3:4 …………………………………………………………...food

nephews, 1 Tim. 5:4 ……………………………………………grandchildren

prevent, 1 Thess. 4:15 ……………………………………………….precede

room, Luke 14:7-10 ……………………………………………….seat, place

scrip, Matt. 10:10 …………………………………………………………bag

take no thought, Matt. 6:25 …………………………………..be not anxious

There are several ways in which to handle this matter of obsolete words and meanings in the King James Version. Perhaps the best way is to place the modern equivalent in the margin. This will serve to increase the vocabulary of the reader and avoid disturbance of the text. Another way would be to place the more modern word in brackets beside the older word. This would be particularly appropriate in Bibles designed for private study.

(g) Why the King lames Version Should be Retained

But, someone may reply, even if the King James Version needs only a few corrections, why take the trouble to make them? Why keep on with the old King James and its 17th-century language, its thee and thou and all the rest? Granted that the Textus Receptus is the best text, but why not make a new translation of it in the language of today? In answer to these objections there are several facts which must be pointed out.

In the first place, the English of the King James Version is not the English of the early 17th century. To be exact, it is not a type of English that was ever spoken anywhere. It is biblical English, which was not used on ordinary occasions even by the translators who produced the King James Version. As H. Wheeler Robinson (1940) pointed out, one need only compare the preface written by the translators with the text of their translation to feel the difference in style. (46) And the observations of W. A. Irwin (1952) are to the same purport. The King James Version, he reminds us, owes its merit, not to 17th-century English—which was very different—but to its faithful translation of the original. Its style is that of the Hebrew and of the New Testament Greek. (47) Even in their use of thee and thou the translators were not following 17th-century English usage but biblical usage, for at the time these translators were doing their work these singular forms had already been replaced by the plural you in polite conversation. (48)

In the second place, those who talk about translating the Bible into the "language of today" never define what they mean by this expression. What is the language of today? The language of 1881 is not the language of today, nor the language of 1901, nor even the language of 1921. In none of these languages, we are told, can we communicate with today's youth. There are even some who feel that the best way to translate the Bible into the language of today is to convert it into "folk songs." Accordingly, in many contemporary youth conferences and even worship services there is little or no Bible reading but only crude kinds of vocal music accompanied by vigorous piano and strumming guitars. But in contrast to these absurdities the language of the King James Version is enduring diction which will remain as long as the English language remains, in other words, throughout the foreseeable future.

In the third place, the current attack on the King James Version and the promotion of modern-speech versions is discouraging the memorization of the Scriptures, especially by children. Why memorize or require your children to memorize something that is out of date and about to be replaced by something new and better? And why memorize a modern version when there are so many to choose from? Hence even in conservative churches children are growing up densely ignorant of the holy Bible because they are not encouraged to hide its life-giving words in their hearts.

In the fourth place, modem-speech Bibles are unhistorical and irreverent. The Bible is not a modern, human book. It is not as new as the morning newspaper, and no translation should suggest this. If the Bible were this new, it would not be the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible is an ancient, divine Book, which nevertheless is always new because in it God reveals Himself. Hence the language of the Bible should be venerable as well as intelligible, and the King James Version fulfills these two requirements better than any other Bible in English. Hence it is the King James Version which converts sinners soundly and makes of them diligent Bible students.

In the fifth place, modern-speech Bibles are unscholarly. The language of the Bible has always savored of the things of heaven rather than the things of earth. It has always been biblical rather than contemporary and colloquial. Fifty years ago this fact was denied by E. J. Goodspeed and others who were pushing their modern versions. On the basis of the papyrus discoveries which had recently been made in Egypt it was said that the New Testament authors wrote in the everyday Greek of their own times. (49) This claim, however, is now acknowledged to have been an exaggeration. As R. M. Grant (1963) admits (50) the New Testament writers were saturated with the Septuagint and most of them were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. Hence their language was not actually that of the secular papyri of Egypt but biblical. Hence New Testament versions must be biblical and not contemporary and colloquial like Goodspeed's version.

Finally, in the sixth place, the King James Version is the historic Bible of English-speaking Protestants. Upon it God, working providentially, has placed the stamp of His approval through the usage of many generations of Bible-believing Christians. Hence, if we believe in God's providential preservation of the Scriptures, we will retain the King James Version, for in so doing we will be following the clear leading of the Almighty.

5. The Text Of The King James Version — Questions And Problems

When a believer begins to defend the King James Version, unbelievers immediately commence to bring up various questions and problems in the effort to put the believer down and silence him. Let us therefore consider some of these alleged difficulties.

(a) The King James Version a Variety of the Textus Receptus

The translators that produced the King James Version relied mainly, it seems, on the later editions of Beza's Greek New Testament, especially his 4th edition (1588-9). But also they frequently consulted the editions of Erasmus and Stephanus and the Complutensian Polyglot. According to Scrivener (1884), (51) out of the 252 passages in which these sources differ sufficiently to affect the English rendering, the King James Version agrees with Beza against Stephanus 113 times, with Stephanus against Beza 59 times, and 80 times with Erasmus, or the Complutensian, or the Latin Vulgate against Beza and Stephanus. Hence the King James Version ought to be regarded not merely as a translation of the Textus Receptus but also as an independent variety of the Textus Receptus.

The King James translators also placed variant readings in the margin, 37 of them according to Scrivener. (52) To these 37 textual notes 16 more were added during the 17th and 18th centuries, (53) and all these variants still appear in the margins of British printings of the King James Version. In the special providence of God, however, the text of the King James Version has been kept pure. None of these variant readings has been interpolated into it. Of the original 37 variants some are introduced by such formulas as, "Many ancient copies add these words"; "Many Greek copies have"; "Or, as some copies read"; "Some read". Often, however, the reading is introduced simply by "Or", thus making it hard to tell whether a variant reading or an alternative translation is intended.

One of these variant readings is of special interest. After John 18:13 the Bishops' Bible (1568) had added the following words in italics, And Annas sent Christ bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. This was a conjectural emendation similar to one which had been suggested by Luther and to another which had been adopted by Beza in his Latin version on the authority of Cyril of Alexandria (d.444). The purpose of it was to harmonize John 18:13 with Matt. 26:57, which states that the interrogation of Jesus took place at the house of Caiaphas rather than at the house of Annas. The King James translators, however, along with Erasmus and Calvin, solved the problem by translating John 18:24 in the pluperfect, Now Annas HAD sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. This made it unnecessary to emend the text at John 18:13 after the manner of the Bishops' Bible. Hence the King James translators took this conjectural emendation out of the text and placed it in their margin where it has retained its place unto this day. (54)

Sometimes the King James translators forsook the printed Greek text and united with the earlier English versions in following the Latin Vulgate. One well known passage in which they did this was Luke 23:42 the prayer of the dying thief. Here the Greek New Testaments of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza have, Lord, remember me when Thou comest IN Thy kingdom, with the majority of the Greek manuscripts. But all the English Bibles of that period (Tyndale, Great, Geneva, Bishops' Rheims, King James) have, Lord, remember me when Thou comest INTO Thy kingdom, with the Latin Vulgate and also with Papyrus 75 and B.

At John 8:6 the King James translators followed the Bishops' Bible in adding the clause, as though He heard them not. This clause is found in E G H K and many other manuscripts, in the Complutensian, and in the first two editions of Stephanus. After 1769 it was placed in italics in the King James Version.

Similarly, at 1 John 2:23 the King James translators followed the Great Bible and the Bishops' Bible in adding the clause, he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also, and in placing the clause in italics, thus indicating that it was not found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts or in the earlier editions of the Textus Receptus. Beza included it, however, in his later editions, and it is found in the Latin Vulgate and in Aleph and B. Hence modern versions have removed the italics and given the clause full status. The Bishops' Bible and the King James Version join this clause to the preceding by the word but, taken from Wyclif. With customary scrupulosity the King James translators enclosed this but in brackets, thus indicating that it was not properly speaking part of the text but merely a help in translation.


(b) The Editions of the Textus Receptus Compared — Their Differences Listed

The differences between the various editions of the Textus Receptus have been carefully listed by Scrivener (1884) (55) and Hoskier (1890). (56) The following are some of the most important of these differences.

Luke 2:22 their purification, Erasmus, Stephanus, majority of the Greek manuscripts. Her purification, Beza, King James Elzevir, Complutensian, 76 and a few other Greek minuscule manuscripts, Latin Vulgate (?).

Luke 17:36 Two men shall be in the field: the one shall be taken and the other left. Erasmus, Stephanus l 2 3 omit this verse with the majority of the Greek manuscripts. Stephanus 4, Beza, King James, Elzevir have it with D, Latin Vulgate, Peshitta, Old Syriac.

John 1:28 Bethabara beyond Jordan, Erasmus, Stephanus 3 4 Beza, King James, Elzevir, Pi 1 13, Old Syriac, Sahidic. Bethany beyond Jordan, Stephanus 1 2, majority of Greek manuscripts including Pap 66 & 75 Aleph A B. Latin Vulgate.

John 16:33 shall have tribulation, Beza, King James, Elzevir, D 69 many other Greek manuscripts, Old Latin, Latin Vulgate. have tribulation, Erasmus, Stephanus, majority of Greek manuscripts.

Rom. 8:11 by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Beza, King James, Elzevir, Aleph A C, Coptic. because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Erasmus, Stephanus, majority of Greek manuscripts including B D, Peshitta, Latin Vulgate.

Rom. 12:11 sewing the Lord, Erasmus 1, Beza, King James, Elzevir, majority of Greek manuscripts including Pap 46 Aleph A B. Peshitta, Latin Vulgate. serving the time, Erasmus 2345,Stephanus, D G.

1 Tim. 1:4 godly edifying, Erasmus, Beza, King James, Elzevir, D, Peshitta, Latin Vulgate. dispensation of God, Stephanus, majority of Greek manuscripts including

Aleph A G.

Heb. 9:1 Here Stephanus reads first tabernacle, with the majority of the Greek manuscripts. Erasmus, Beza, Luther, Calvin omit tabernacle with Pap 46 Aleph B D, Peshitta, Latin Vulgate. The King James Version omits tabernacle and regards covenant as implied.

James 2:13 without thy works, Calvin, Beza (last 3 editions), King James Aleph A B, Latin Vulgate. by thy works, Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza 1565, majority of Greek manuscripts.

This comparison indicates that the differences which distinguish the various editions of the Textus Receptus from each other are very minor. They are also very few. According to Hoskier, the 3rd edition of Stephanus and the first edition of Elzevir differ from one another in the Gospel of Mark only 19 times. (57) Codex B. on the other hand, disagrees with Codex Aleph in Mark 652 times and with Codex D 1,944 times. What a contrast!

The texts of the several editions of the Textus Receptus were God-guided. They were set up under the leading of God's special providence. Hence the differences between them were kept down to a minimum. But these disagreements were not eliminated altogether, for this would require not merely providential guidance but a miracle. In short, God chose to preserve the New Testament text providentially rather than miraculously, and this is why even the several editions of the Textus Receptus vary from each other slightly.

But what do we do in these few places in which the several editions of the Textus Receptus disagree with one another? Which text do we follow? The answer to this question is easy. We are guided by the common faith. Hence we favor that form of the Textus Receptus upon which more than any other God, working providentially, has placed the stamp of His approval, namely, the King James Version, or, more precisely, the Greek text underlying the King James Version. This text was published in 1881 by the Cambridge University Press under the editorship of Dr. Scrivener and there have been eight reprints, the latest being in 1949. (58) In 1976 also another edition of this text was published in London by the Trinitarian Bible Society. (59) We ought to be grateful that in the providence of God the best form of the Textus Receptus is still available to believing Bible students. For the sake of completeness, however, it would be well to place in the margin the variant readings of Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevirs.

(c) The King James Old Testament—Variant Readings

Along side the text, called kethibh (written), the Jewish scribes had placed in the margin of their Old Testament manuscripts certain variant readings, which they called keri (read). Some of these keri appear in the margin of the King James Old Testament. For example, in Psalm 100:3 the King James text gives the kethibh, It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves, but the King James margin gives the keri, It is He that hath made us, and His we are. And sometimes the keri is placed in the King James text (16 times, according to Scrivener). For example, in Micah 1:10 the King James text gives the keri, in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust. The Hebrew kethibh, however, is, in the house of Aphrah I have rolled myself in the dust.

Sometimes also the influence of the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate is discernible in the King James Old Testament. For example, in Psalm 24:6 the King James text reads, O Jacob, with the Hebrew kethibh but the King James margin reads, O God of Jacob, which is the reading of the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and also of Luther's German Bible. In Jer. 3:9 the King James margin reads fame (qol) along with the Hebrew kethibh, but the King James text reads lightness (qal) in agreement with the Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate. And in Psalm 22:16 the King James Version reads with the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Latin Vulgate, they pierced my hands and my feet. The Hebrew text, on the other hand, reads, like a lion my hands and my feet, a reading which makes no sense and which, as Calvin observes, was obviously invented by the Jews to deny the prophetic reference to the crucifixion of Christ.

(d) The Headings of the Psalms—Are They Inspired?

Many of the Psalms have headings. For example, To the chief Musician, A Psalm and Song of David (Psalm 65). The King James translators separated these headings and printed them in small type, each one above the Psalm to which it belonged. Some conservative scholars, such as J. A. Alexander (1850) (60) have criticized the King James translators for doing this. These headings, they have insisted, should be regarded as the first verses of their respective Psalms. They give three reasons for this opinion: first, in the Hebrew Bible no distinction is made between the Psalms and their headings; second, the New Testament writers recognized these headings as true; third, each heading is part of the Psalm which it introduces and hence is inspired. This position, however, may go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture. In any case, it is better to follow the leading of the King James translators and recognize the obvious difference between the heading of a Psalm and the Psalm itself.

The King James translators handled the subscriptions of the Pauline Epistles similarly, printing each one after its own epistle in small type. But this has never been a problem, since these subscriptions have never been regarded as inspired.

(e) Maximum Certainty Versus Maximum Uncertainty

God's preservation of the New Testament text was not miraculous but providential. The scribes and printers who produced the copies of the New Testament Scriptures and the true believers who read and cherished them were not inspired but God-guided. Hence there are some New Testament passages in which the true reading cannot be determined with absolute certainty. There are some readings, for example, on which the manuscripts are almost equally divided, making it difficult to determine which reading belongs to the Traditional Text. Also in some of the cases in which the Textus Receptus disagrees with the Traditional Text it is hard to decide which text to follow. Also, as we have seen, sometimes the several editions of the Textus Receptus differ from each other and from the King James Version. And, as we have just observed, the case is the same with the Old Testament text. Here it is hard at times to decide between the kethibh and the keri and between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate versions. Also there has been a controversy concerning the headings of the Psalms.

In other words, God does not reveal every truth with equal clarity. In biblical textual criticism, as in every other department of knowledge, there are still some details in regard to which we must be content to remain uncertain. But the special providence of God has kept these uncertainties down to a minimum. Hence if we believe in the special providential preservation of the Scriptures and make this the leading principle of our biblical textual criticism, we obtain maximum certainty, all the certainty that any mere man can obtain, all the certainty that we need. For we are led by the logic of faith to the Masoretic Hebrew text, to the New Testament Textus Receptus, and to the King James Version.

But what if we ignore the providential preservation of the Scriptures and deal with the text of the holy Bible in the same way in which we deal with the texts of other ancient books? If we do this, we are following the logic of unbelief, which leads to maximum uncertainty. When we handle the text of the holy Bible in this way, we are behaving as unbelievers behave. We are either denying that the providential preservation of the Scriptures is a fact, or else we are saying that it is not an important fact not important enough to be considered when dealing with the text of the holy Bible. But if the providential preservation of the Scriptures is not important, why is the infallible inspiration of the original Scriptures important? If God has not preserved the Scriptures by His special providence, why would He have infallibly inspired them in the first place? And if it is not important that the Scriptures be regarded as infallibly inspired, why is it important to insist that Gospel is completely true? And if this is not important, why is it important to believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God?

In short, unless we follow the logic of faith, we can be certain of nothing concerning the Bible and its text. For example, if we make the Bodmer and Chester Beatty Papyri our chief reliance, how do we know that even older New Testament papyri of an entirely different character have not been destroyed by the recent damming of the Nile and the consequent flooding of the Egyptian sands? (61)

6. Modern English Bible Versions — Are They Of God?

Modern-speech English Bible versions were first prepared during the 18th century by deists who were irked by the biblical language of the King James Version. In 1729 Daniel Mace published a Greek New Testament text with a translation in the language of his own day. The following are samples of his work: When ye fast, don't put on a dismal air, as the hypocrites do (Matt. 6:16). Social affection is patient, is kind (1 Cor. 13:4). The tongue is a brand that sets the whole world in a combustion . . . tipp'd with infernal sulphur it sets the whole train of life in a blaze (James 3:6). Similarly, in 1768 Edward Harwood published a New Testament translation which he characterized as "a liberal and diffusive version of the sacred classics." His purpose, he explained, was to allure the youth of his day "by the innocent stratagem of a modern style to read a book which is now, alas! too generally neglected and disregarded by the young and gay." And about the same time Benjamin Franklin offered a specimen of "Part of the First Chapter of Job modernized." (62)

Serious efforts, however, to dislodge the King James Version from its position of dominance and to replace it with a modern version did not begin until a century later, and it is with these that we would now deal briefly.

(a) The R. V., the A. S. V., and the N. E. B.

By the middle of the 19th century the researches and propaganda of Tischendorf and Tregelles had convinced many British scholars that the Textus Receptus was a late and inferior text and that therefore a revision of the King James Version was highly necessary. This clamor for a new revision of the English Bible was finally met in 1870, when a Revision Committee was appointed by the Church of England to carry out the project. This Committee consisted of 54 members, half of them being assigned to the Old Testament and half to the New. One of the most influential members of the New Testament section was Dr. F. J. A. Hort, and the text finally adopted by the revisers was largely the Westcott and Hort text. The New Testament was finished November 11, 1880, and published May 17, 1881, amid tremendous acclaim. Within a few days 2,000,000 copies had been sold in London, 365,000 in New York, and 110,000 in Philadelphia. The Old Testament was completed in 1884 and published in 1885. By this time, however, popular demand had died down and the market for the entire Revised Bible was merely fair, the sale of it reaching no such phenomenal heights as the Revised New Testament had attained.

While this work of revision had been going on in England a committee of American scholars had been organized to cooperate in the endeavor. They promised not to publish their own revised edition of the Bible until 14 years after the publication of the English Revised Version (R.V.), and in exchange for this concession were given the privilege of publishing in an appendix to this version a list of the readings which they favored but which the British revisers declined to adopt. In accordance with this agreement, the American Committee waited until 1901 before they published their own Revised Version, which was very like its English cousin except that there was a more thorough elimination of antiquated words and of words specifically English and not American in meaning. By the publishers, Thomas Nelson and Sons, it was called the Standard Version, and from this circumstance it is commonly known as the American Standard Version (A.S.V.). (63)

Neither the R.V. nor the A.S.V. fared as well as their promoters had hoped. They were never widely used, due largely to their poor English style, which, according to F. C. Grant (1954), "was, in many places, unbelievably wooden, opaque, or harsh." (64) Because of this lack of success these two versions have been largely abandoned, and their place has been filled by the Revised Standard Version (1946) in America and the New English Bible (1961) in England. Both are in modern speech. The R.S.V. was prepared by a committee appointed by the International Council of Religious Education, representing 40 Protestant denominations in the United States and Canada. The N.E.B. was prepared by a similar committee representing nine denominations in Great Britain.

The modernism of the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. appears everywhere in them. For example, both of them profess to use thou when referring to God and you when referring to men. Yet the disciples are made to use you when speaking to Jesus, implying, evidently, that they did not believe that He was divine. Even when they confess Him to be the Son of God, the disciples are still made to use you. You are the Christ, Peter is made to say, the Son of the living God (Matt.16:16). In both the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. opposition to the virgin birth of Christ is plainly evident. Thus the N.E.B. calls Mary a girl (Luke 1:27) rather than a virgin, and at Matt. 1:16 the N.E.B. and some editions of the R.S.V. include in a footnote a reading found only in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript which states that Joseph was the father of Jesus.

The N.E.B. exhibits all too plainly a special hostility to the deity of Christ. This is seen in the way in which the Greek word proskyneo is translated. When it is applied to God, the N.E.B. always translates it worship, but when it is applied to Jesus, the N.E.B. persistently translates it pay homage or bow low. Thus the translators refuse to admit that Jesus was worshipped by the early Church. Even the Old Testament quotation, Let all the angels of God worship Him (Heb.1:6), is rendered by the N.E.B., Let all the angels of God pay him homage. The only passage in which proskyneo is translated worship when applied to Jesus is in Luke 24:52. But here this clause is placed in a footnote as a late variant reading. By using the word worship here these modernistic translators give expression to their belief that the worship of Jesus was a late development which took place in the Church only after the true New Testament text had been written.

(b) Contemporary Modern-speech English Bibles

In addition to the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. at least 25 other modern speech English Bibles and New Testaments have been published. Some of these, notably the Weymouth (1903), the Moffatt (1913), and the Goodspeed (1923), enjoyed great popularity in their own day but now are definitely out of date. We will confine our remarks therefore to contemporary modern-speech versions which are being widely used today by evangelicals.

(1) The New Testament In the Language of the People, by Charles B. Williams (1937). As he states in his preface, Williams follows the text of Westcott and Hort. He not only adopts all their errors but even goes beyond them in omitting portions of the New Testament text. For example, he omits Luke 22:43-44 (Christ's agony and bloody sweat) and Luke 23:34a (Christ's prayer for His murderers) instead of putting these passages in brackets as Westcott and Hort do. As for John 7:53-8:11 (the woman taken in adultery), he does not place this passage at the end of John's Gospel, as Westcott and Hort do, but omits it altogether. In addition, Williams interjects bits of higher criticism into his introductions to the various New Testament books. For example, he tells us that the author of John's Gospel is likely John the Apostle but some scholars think another John wrote it. It is usually thought, he says, that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, I and 2 Timothy, but some deny it, etc.

(2) New American Standard New Testament (1960) Lockman Foundation. As its name implies, this is a modernization of the A.S.V. I t follows the text of the A.S.V. very closely and even goes farther in it’s omissions. For example, in Luke 24:51 it omits Christ's ascension into heaven, which the A.S.V. had left standing in the text. In the "Way of Life Edition" of this modern-speech version we have an illogical mixture of pietism and naturalistic thinking. In the text there are verses in black letter which a sinner is to believe to the saving of his soul, while at the bottom of the page are frequent notes which destroy all confidence in the sacred text, stating that such and such readings are not found in the best manuscripts, etc. How can such a Bible convert a thinking college student? No wonder it has to be supplemented by much music and mysticism, fun and frolic.

(3) The New Testament in the Language of Today (1963), by William F. Beck. This modern-speech version makes much of Papyrus 75 mentioning it frequently. In John 8:57 the translator adopts the unusual reading of Papyrus 75, Has Abraham seen You? instead of the common reading, Have You seen Abraham ? Consistency requires that Dr. Beck adopt the other unusual readings of Papyrus 75, such as Neves for the name of the Rich Man (Luke 16:19), shepherd for door (John 10:7), raised for saved (John 11:12). But in these passages Dr. Beck adopts the common readings, forsaking Papyrus 75, and he doesn't even mention the fact that this recently discovered authority omits the blind man's confession of faith (John 9:38). In short, as a textual critic Dr. Beck seems rather capricious in his choices.

(4) Good News For Modern Man, The New Testament in Today's English Version (1966), American Bible Society. This version claims to be based on a Greek text published specially by the United Bible Societies in 1966 with the aid of noted scholars. The translation was prepared by Dr. Robert G. Bratcher. In it some verses are omitted and others marked with brackets. But this is done capriciously without regard even to naturalistic principles. For example, Christ's agony and bloody sweat (Luke 22:43-44) is bracketed, while Christ's prayer for His murderers (Luke 23:34a) is left unbracketed. This version has been called "the bloodless Bible," since it shuns the mention of Christ's blood, preferring instead to speak of Christ's death.

(5) The Living New Testament, Paraphrased (1967), by Ken Taylor. This paraphrase uses the A.S.V. as its basic text. Like so many other modern-speech Bibles in vogue among evangelicals, it is arbitrary in its renderings. The name, Son of Man, for example, which Jesus applied to Himself is rendered six different ways. Sometimes it is translated I, sometimes He, sometimes Son of Mankind, sometimes Man from Heaven, sometimes Man of Glory, and sometimes Messiah. And this variation is kept up even in parallel passages in which the Greek wording is identical. For example, in Matt.9:6 Son of Man is translated I, while in Mark 2:10 it is translated I, the Man from Heaven. What reason is there for this whimsical treatment of one of our Saviour's sacred titles? Taylor gives none. Doctrinally also Taylor wrests the Scriptures with his paraphrase. For instance, in Rom. 8:28 Taylor tells us that all things work for our good, if only we love God and fit into His plans.

(6) The Jerusalem Bible (1966), Doubleday. This Bible was originally a French modern-speech version prepared by French Roman Catholic scholars at L'Ecole Biblique (The Biblical School) at Jerusalem and published in Paris in 1955. It sold so widely in the French-speaking world that a few years later commercial publishers in England and America jointly undertook an equivalent English version, which they published in 1966 under the sensational and misleading title Jerusalem Bible. The modernism of this Bible also is offensive to orthodox Christians.

(7) The New American Bible (1970), Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. This official, Roman Catholic, modern-speech Bible, with a prefatory letter of approval from Pope Paul VI, has been authorized as a source of readings in the Mass. In the text and notes and in the introductions to the New Testament books many critical positions formerly regarded as official have been sharply reversed. For example, it is now permissible for Roman Catholics to hold that the Gospel of Matthew is an expanded version of the Gospel of Mark and later than the Gospel of Luke. Permission is also given to maintain that the Gospel of John was not written by the Apostle John but by a disciple-evangelist and then was later revised by a disciple-redactor.


It is also suggested that 2 Peter was not written by the Apostle Peter and even that 1 Peter may likewise have been pseudonymous. Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are not regarded as original portions of their respective Gospels, and the Johannine comma (1 John 5:7-8) is omitted without comment. This complete about-face is ominous, for it shows how far Roman Catholic authorities are willing to go in their efforts to give themselves a "new image" and to make room for modernists in their ecclesiastical structure. Liberal Protestantism is about to collapse and fall into the waiting arms of Roman Catholicism. And many inconsistent Fundamentalists will be involved in this disaster because of their addiction to naturalistic New Testament textual criticism and naturalistic modern-speech versions.

(8) New International Version (1973), New York Bible Society. This translation follows the critical (Westcott and Hort) text. There seems to be nothing particularly remarkable about it. However, it is falsely called International. Obviously it is wholly American, sometimes painfully so. For example, it joins Beck's version and Good News for Modern Man in consistently substituting rooster for cock. But this is American barnyard talk. Is there anything wrong with our American barnyard talk? As good Americans we answer, of course not. Nevertheless, however, such talk is not literary enough to be given a place in holy Scripture.

(c) The King James Version — The Providentially Appointed English Bible

Do we believing Bible Students "worship" the King James Version? Do we regard it as inspired, just as the ancient Jewish philosopher Philo (d. 42 A.D.) and many early Christians regarded the Septuagint as inspired? Or do we claim the same supremacy for the King James Version that Roman Catholics claim for the Latin Vulgate? Do we magnify its authority above that of the Hebrew and Greek Old and New Testament Scriptures? We have often been accused of such excessive veneration for the King James Version, but these accusations are false. In regard to Bible versions we follow the example of Christ's Apostles. We adopt the same attitude toward the King James Version that they maintained toward the Septuagint.

In their Old Testament quotations the Apostles never made any distinction between the Septuagint and the Hebrew Scriptures. They never said, "The Septuagint translates this verse thus and so, but in the original Hebrew it is this way." Why not? Why did they pass up all these opportunities to display their learning? Evidently because of their great respect for the Septuagint and the position which it occupied in the providence of God. In other words, the Apostles recognized the Septuagint as the providentially approved translation of the Old Testament into Greek. They understood that this was the version that God desired the gentile Church of their day to use as its Old Testament Scripture.

In regard to Bible versions, then, we follow the example of the Apostles and the other inspired New Testament writers. Just as they recognized the Septuagint as the providentially appointed translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, so we recognize the King James Version and the other great historic translations of the holy Scriptures as providentially approved. Hence we receive the King James Version as the providentially appointed English Bible. Admittedly this venerable version is not absolutely perfect, but it is trustworthy. No Bible-believing Christian who relies upon it will ever be led astray. But it is just the opposite with modern versions. They are untrustworthy, and they do lead Bible-believing Christians astray.

It is possible, if the Lord tarry that in the future the English language will change so much that a new English translation of the Bible will become absolutely necessary. But in that case any version which we prepare today would be equally antiquated. Hence this is a matter which we must leave to God, who alone knows what is in store for us. For the present, however, and the foreseeable future no new translation is needed to take the place of the King James Version. Today our chief concern must be to create a climate of Christian thought and learning which God can use providentially should the need for such a new English version ever arise. This would insure that only the English wording would be revised and not the underlying Hebrew and Greek text.

(d) Which King James Version? — A Feeble Rebuttal

Opponents of the King James Version often try to refute us by asking us which edition of the King James Version we receive as authoritative. For example, a professor in a well known Bible school writes as follows: "With specific reference to the King James translation, I must ask you which revision you refer to as the one to be accepted? It has been revised at least three times. The first translation of 1611 included the Apocrypha, which I do not accept as authoritative."

This retort, however, is very weak. All the editions of the King James Version from 1611 onward are still extant and have been examined minutely by F. H. A. Scrivener and other careful scholars. Aside from printers errors, these editions differ from each other only in regard to spelling, punctuation, and, in a few places, italics. Hence any one of them may be used by a Bible-believing Christian. The fact that some of them include the Apocrypha is beside the point, since this does not affect their accuracy in the Old and New Testaments.



Chapter Nine



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